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February 7, 2005

Blood Test for Bipolar Disorder

The science magazine "New Scientist" reported on February 5, 2005 on a new blood test being developed for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, as reported in a genetics journal (American Journal of Medical Genetics B , vol 133, p 1)

The early results suggest a 95% to 97% accuracy level - which could help a great deal in early diagnosis and even potential prevention. Of course - this is just one early test, on a small number of people - so it remains to be seen if it proves to be effective when the study is validated by an independent group with larger sample sizes.

The story mentioned that:

"A BLOOD test that measures the activity of genes can accurately detect mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, a small trial suggests.

RNA molecules are produced whenever a gene is active and, by measuring levels of these molecules in the blood, a team led by Ming Tsuang, at the University of California in San Diego has distinguished healthy individuals from patients with either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (manic depression).

These conditions are currently diagnosed by assessing patients' behaviour. "A laboratory test would enable earlier diagnosis and more timely treatment," Tsuang says."

The study examined the blood gene expression of 74 patients - 30 with schizophrenia, 16 with bipolar disorder and 28 controls. Eight gene blood biomarkers were identified and used to discriminate amongst the 3 groups, with an overall accuracy of 95% to 97%. The paper was co-authored by Dr. Ming T. Tsuang, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, and Director, Institute of Behavioral Genomics, Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and Director, Harvard Institute of Psychiatric Epidemiology and Genetics, Harvard Department of Epidemiology and Psychiatry, Harvard University and Dr. C.C. Liew, ChondroGene's Chief Scientist, Visiting Professor and Founder of The Cardiovascular Genome Unit at The Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Professor Emeritus at The University of Toronto, and was responsible for conceiving the Sentinel Principle.

The data presented in the paper is a result of an initial collaborative research project between ChondroGene and Dr. Tsuang in which the Sentinel Principle was applied to these two psychiatric disorders. Additional studies to further validate disease-specific biomarkers in larger psychiatric populations are ongoing.

"At present there are no tests that can effectively diagnose psychiatric disorders early in their evolution. Using current methods, it can take months or even years to make a definitive diagnosis", stated Dr. K. Wayne Marshall, President and CEO of ChondroGene Limited. "Application of ChondroGene's Sentinel Principle to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder has generated unique blood-based molecular signatures for each disease. These molecular signatures can be used to develop disease-specific biomarkers that will enable earlier diagnosis and more timely treatment of these devastating disorders."

Rory Riggs, ChondroGene's Chairman and Managing Director of Balfour LLC, stated that "the Sentinel Principle is an extremely powerful tool that can provide a snapshot of what is happening throughout the body from a simple blood sample. So far ChondroGene has applied the Sentinel Principle to over 50 different diseases with very promising results."

The Sentinel Principle is used to identify unique molecular signatures in blood associated with a specific disease. These molecular signatures are then used to identify blood-based biomarkers that can be used for disease- specific diagnostic tests. ChondroGene is applying the Sentinel Principle in four main disease areas; cancer, central nervous system disorders, cardiovascular disease and arthritis. The Company currently works with research collaborators and organizations around the world in these various disease areas.

New Scientist magazine mentioned that "Peter Liddle, co-director of the Nottingham Institute of Neuroscience in the UK, warns that the similarities in gene expression in patients could be a coincidence or the result of their medication. Tsuang is already carrying out a second, larger study and hopes to start a third with patients not on medication, to rule out possible effects of prescription drugs on gene expression."

The paper entitled "Assessing the Validity of Blood- Based Gene Expression Profiles for the Classification of Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder: A preliminary Report" is available online on the American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics' website at

The work is in part sponsored by a company called "ChrondroGene". ChondroGene is focussed on the application of functional genomics to enable early diagnosis and personalized therapeutic intervention based on disease-specific biomarkers. The Company has developed a novel approach, based on the Sentinel Principle, to detect and stage virtually any disease or medical condition from a simple blood sample. ChondroGene is currently applying the Sentinel Principle in major areas with unmet clinical needs such as cancer, arthritis, cardiovascular disease and neurological disorders. For more information on ChondroGene, visit


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